Greek-American Doctor on the Front Lines of the Coronavirus Pandemic, Talks to TNH

NEW YORK – Unprecedented images Doctors and nursing staff are experiencing an unprecedented situation daily in New York hospitals as cases of coronavirus increase.

Dr. Sotirios Kassapidis, a pulmonologist who works at Mount Sinai Hospital spoke with The National Herald about his daily experiences, describing them as a war, where doctors and patients fight their own battles under difficult conditions, a war we have never experienced before.

Cases are increasing day by day and doctors are facing tragic situations. Patients die on their own, without their loved ones close by, isolated from the rest of the world.

“The situation is getting worse every day. People are coming to the hospital all the time, and unfortunately we are now seeing younger patients from 40 to 50 years old. People come in with no health problems, they just got infected with the virus. There are even some who have no symptoms, and are just scared. The emergency situation is chaotic. People are waiting, there is no space, there are not enough beds,” Dr. Kassapidis told TNH.

It is afternoon and we ask him how many patients he saw in the morning and how many of them were positive for the virus. “I examined 72 patients in one day. Of these, 68 were positive. We look at all who come and if their oxygen level is below 90% we keep them. We try to see them all, we don’t turn anyone away. But to do the test you have to have a fever and your oxygen level is down. The most severe cases have priority. We put them where there is a bed. There are no surgeries and so we try to save space.”

The scenes that doctors experience at this time are difficult to describe. The emotional charge is intense, as they are the only people who are beside those infected with the virus and those who see them for the last time.

“The worst problem when a patient has the virus is that he has to be isolated. His family is not allowed to visit. When a patient’s condition gets worse, they come to me in the Intensive Care Unit. There, the situations are tragic. When the patient is waiting to die, there is no one to hold his hand. At that moment I am trying to help. Using my phone, I make a video call so his family can see him for the last time. Imagine what we are going through,” said Dr. Kassapidis.

He describes a tragic scene talking about the case of an elderly woman who is locked in a room. “It’s like a prisoner in a cell. She is elderly, does not understand, has health problems. She doesn’t even know why she’s there. I see her walking around the room back and forth and wondering what she’s doing there.”

Dr. Kassapidis struggles daily with the new reality, along with other doctors at the hospital. All of them work from morning till night to meet the increased needs during the pandemic.

“Every night I go home and I want to cry. When I finished medical school, I started working in the HIV era. And then many people were dying. And then we were struggling with something unknown but what is happening now is cataclysmic. Things are tragic, should we be lying to the public? It is tragic. The patient lives or dies by chance. We have medicines that help, and if we find them effective, we will give them, such as malaria pills but we don’t know if they help. There are other medications but it depends on each individual and their constitution,” he added.

“This is a war we’re experiencing. It is like World War II when grandpa left to fight and nobody knew if he would come back. He said goodbye to his family and left. Even so, he leaves for the hospital, fighting for his life without knowing if he will return.”

Dr. Kasapidis also pointed out the difficult task of nurses who are called to clean the rooms of those infected with the virus and prepare them for the next patients. “They are heroes who clean the rooms. When a patient dies, they need to get him out of there and clean up. And all wearing white uniform, hat, mask, and boots.” He adds that the hospital has received supplies, masks and gloves, but the staff are doing their best not to waste them, as an influx of patients could soon create a shortage.

Source: Thenationalherald.com

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